Ajibode, Arowodoye, Oshungbemi and Ogunmolu are the four royal families among which the Aragbiji traditional stool is rotated. The reigning Aragbiji, Oba Abdulrasheed Olabomi, ascended to the throne over 12 years ago and described his reign as an experience which his public service career had prepared him for. In this interview by TUNDE BUSARI, he declared that Iragbi is an emerging economic epicentre. Excerpts:
COVID-19 has arguably distorted a lot of programmes since March, how has Iragbiji fared so far in this period of pandemic?
Iragbiji’s experience cannot be treated in isolation of what other parts of the world is passing through, but we thank God that we are all adjusting to the reality which the situation has brought to us. You would agree with me that it has not been easy anywhere; even government is feeling the heat of the virus; as you can see President Muhamdadu Buhari observing social distancing and wearing face mask like every other person. If the president of a country can comply with such preventive measures, then no one should take the risk and say Coronavirus is not real.
How are you able to enforce preventive measures in your subjects?
First of all, I want to express my appreciation to the people of Iragbiji for the understanding they have shown so far. I am not saying we have total compliance because human beings are complex, but I am happy that our efforts yielded fruits, especially during the lockdown.
Can you be specific about your efforts?
The palace collaborated well with the council to embark on sensitisation campaign on the streets. We went there with public address system to communicate with the people. Again, I am happy that we were able to achieve good results at the end. But I should use this opportunity to tell my people that the pandemic period is not over yet. We should not see the relaxation of lockdown as sign that the matter has been resolved. The period we are in is a time to manage and reduce loss in economic and governance in the country. For instance, when Osun State government realised a need to act promptly in a few local government areas in the State, it reintroduced lockdown. That is a responsible government, which reacted promptly before escalation. I hope the people of the concerned areas would show understanding on this matter, because health is most important to whatever we do. What I am saying is that we should see the current situation as an opportunity to comply with all directives and health tips, meant to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to the minimum.
Any advice to your fellow traditional rulers on the matter?
What again than reminding them to advise their people that Coronavirus is not over; that they should all wear face masks as directed and do all other things health workers tell them to do. Our role as traditional rulers is to use our close proximity to the grassroot to explain government policies to them in the plain language they understand. I am happy that we are blessed with enlightened traditional rulers who know the importance of healthy communities to growth and development.
Since your installation in 2008, how can you describe your transition from administrator in public service to the palace?
I am happy you know my background as an administrator. I can say that the background prepared me for the throne; having been familiar with administration at local government level for many years before I became the Aragbiji. If not because of custom and tradition requirement, I would have loved to say that a traditional ruler must have passed through such knowledge before selection to the throne. The experience is always helpful in understanding how administration at this level operates.
You must have come to the throne with a set of agenda to distinguish your reign from those of your predecessors. How far have you adhered with the agenda?
Everyone is expected to set target for himself to embark on a new project or a new journey in my own case. I am very happy that I have not derailed from my target to make Iragbiji better than I met it in May 2008.
Can you, therefore, say you are fulfilled with this submission?
That is too early to say. I have just spent 12 years on the throne, which means I still have a long way to thread. Even if I have met all my targets in 12 years, it does not mean the end of progressive works. I must continue to work till God says I have done enough to return to Him. Then, all I have done will be materials for historians. It is good to have agenda, but it is not good to restrict yourself to it. If you know you are worth the position, you do all works that are needed to be done.
In terms of human and natural resources, I see Iragbiji as a blessed town. How do you react to my observation?
Your observation is right to a large extent, but there is difference between being blessed with human and natural resources and harnessing the resources for growth and development. Don’t we have countries that are blessed with resources but are in poverty? Leadership plays an important role in this regard. And I am happy to tell you that the Iragbiji we have today is not the Iragbiji we had before 2008. I am not given to blowing my trumpet. It is rather good for your work to speak for you. That is my principle. However, on top of my agenda was transformation of Iragbiji to a top rated town in Osun State and Nigeria. Now we have a College of Health Technology, new roads, Anaye Market; among other transformations being witnessed in the town since 2008. Our cultural festivals are now attracting tourists from different places. I am talking of those who enter the town and see the hills and mountains and become marveled.
How far with the Iragbiji Economic Summit?
We are on course. I am happy you remember; we have the summit in place. It is designed to bring all indigenes of Iragbiji together with a view to contributing knowledge on how to make the town are economic epicentre, which will be an attraction to entrepreneurs from different places. I am positive that we are going to get there. I am blessed with sons and daughters whose vision aligns with my own, and that is good to achieve common goals. If your vision contrasts that of your subjects who are supposed to drive the vision, then there is problem.
I learnt that Orioke festival is passing through some innovations to make it more appealing to tourists. Can you shed more light on this?
It may interest you that we have been able to redirect the minds of our people away from their former perception of our culture. We have now modified it to incorporate other recreational activities, such as local games, to attract the young ones and the experience has been a success. Of course, we still do normal procession to Orioke but I have barred people from requesting anything from any other source but God; the owner of the hill and everything, including us all. We supplicate to Him only and discourage anyone from attributing the sublime powers of Allah to any of His great works. Even though we are witnessing a change in attitude, we need support of everyone in achieving total reinvention. People should come up with great ideas. We are open to innovative ideas which would give us desired results. We must all join hands to make Iragbiji great. Orioke festival and our Egungun festival are our cultural heritage which we must preserve because they are tourism products, if well developed. We need to realise need to make our culture more attractive, instead of doing the same thing, same way for centuries. We need to understand the fact that ours is a dynamic world where things are fast-changing. And there is no reason for anyone to allow themselves to be left behind. I am happy that my people are showing understanding to this. Egungun festival no longer attracts clashes and violence we witnessed in the past, and I am very serious about it.
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